Losing weight, getting organized and spending less money are among the most common New Year’s resolutions made each January, but of the 45 percent of Americans who make resolutions, only about 8 percent report successfully achieving them.
The new year is a symbol of rebirth, which makes it a great time to start working on self-improvement, but sticking to New Year’s resolutions takes prolonged commitment and patience, says Dr. Deborah Chiles, clinical psychologist with Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. Unfortunately, we often get excited and don’t plan wisely, which can lead to early failure.
For those who want their 2016 resolutions to stick, Dr. Chiles shares these five suggestions:
- Create specific and realistic goals. Focus on things you know are attainable with a little hard work. If you want to lose weight, for instance, consider how much and how quickly you can lose while still being healthy, then let that information guide you in setting a realistic goal. If you are working hard to meet your goal, but seeing very little progress, you’re far more likely to give up. If you’d like to read more, for instance, but haven’t picked up a book in years, make it your goal to read five new books this year not 50.
- Set incremental goals and check-ins. Schedule regular progress checks throughout the year. If you’re trying to lose weight, work 5 pounds at a time. If you’re trying to exercise more, reward yourself after you complete your first successful month. Incremental goals can help keep you motivated and make your ultimate goal seem less daunting.
- Don’t try to tackle too many things at once. Choose one or two areas of your life where you’d like to make improvements and focus on them. Making positive life changes can be both difficult and time consuming. Be kind with yourself. You may want to change many things about yourself or your lifestyle, but you don’t have to do a major overhaul all at once. Take it one step at a time.
- Use the buddy system. Ask a friend to join you in your resolutions. You can work together and hold each other accountable. If you have a competitive streak, use it. A friendly competition between friends can be a great motivator for everyone involved, especially if there’s a prize on the line.
- Make resolutions you want to achieve. Don’t make resolutions because you feel like you should. Make resolutions that you actively want to work on. I’ve seen many people vow to quit smoking, but not because they want to. Obviously, quitting smoking is a great resolution to make, but without inner motivation and a real desire to do it, it’s less likely to stick in the long-term.
Dr. Chiles adds that the most important thing to remember is to not beat yourself up if you face a setback!